These winter months are a great time for me to spend more time in the kitchen. I’m not longing to be outside and do other things. If anything, I’m wanting to stay holed up inside as much as possible, rather than face the cold. So it’s the ideal time for me to bake bread.
There are few things I love more than bread. Let’s be honest, if I choose to eat at Brio on a date night, it’s really for their bread and butter. Fresh bread and brie makes me happy at lunchtime. And then there’s avocado toast. Yes please!
I have effectively passed down my love for bread to the next generation. We went away before Christmas to celebrate a 40th birthday and invest some focused time into our family. I think it’s the only trip we’ve ever taken where meals were included. Our youngest lived off of bread and ice cream for a week. He would never get away with that at home… he was in heaven! But most specifically, he loved the rustic dinner rolls that had a tough, crunchy outside and a perfectly chewy inside. I loved them too.
So the other night when I made minestrone for dinner, I decided to bake these rustic dinner rolls from my ever reliable America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. I hoped to capture that same balance of crispiness and chewiness of the rolls from our trip. And I did! I was quite proud. Spritzing the rolls with water before baking mimics a steam oven, causing the crisp/chew balance that I was hoping for. We ate these up with no problem. They took a bit of time, and I almost gave myself enough time to have them finished along with the soup in enough time to get kids to basketball practice. But not quite. So I had to shorten one of the 30 minute rises, and we ate them straight out of the oven, rather than letting them cool for an hour. It’s winter… I want my bread hot!!
Because there is no warm place in our house for a good rise, I turn on our oven for no more than a minute to get some heat in there. Then I let the dough rise all warm and cozy inside the oven. The dough is really sticky, so be sure to flour your hands before handling it each time.
Rustic Dinner Rolls
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp water, warmed to 100-110 degrees
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 1/2 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast (not active-dry!)
- 3 cups plus 1 tbsp (16 1/2 oz) bread flour, plus extra for the dough and work surface
- 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp table or sea salt
Whisk the water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined, making sure no honey sticks to the bottom of the bowl. Add the flours and mix on low speed with the dough hook until a cohesive dough is formed, about 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic or bee’s wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Remove the plastic/bee’s wrap and sprinkle the salt evenly over the dough. Knead on low speed for 5 minutes. (If the dough creeps up on the attachment, stop the mixer and scrape it down.) Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky, about 1 minute. If the dough is very sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and continue mixing for 1 minute. Lightly oil a medium bowl; transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic/bee’s wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour (I warm my oven for less than a minute and put it in there to rise).
Using floured hands, fold the dough over itself; rotate the bowl a quarter turn and fold again. Rotate the bowl again and fold once more. Cover with wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat the folding, replace the wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Spray two 9-inch round bake pans with coconut or vegetable oil spray and set aside.
Turn the oven on to preheat to 500 degrees. Adjust an oven rack to the center position. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour. Using a bench scraper (or a chef’s knife), cut the dough in half and gently stretch each half into a 16-inch log. Cut each log into quarters, then cut each quarter in half (you should have 16 pieces total from the two logs.) Dust the top of each piece with more flour. With floured hands, gently pick up each piece and roll it in your palms to coat with flour, shaking off the excess, and place in the prepared cake pan. Arrange eight dough pieces in each cake pan, placing one piece in the middle and the others around it, with the cut side facing up and the long side of each piece running from the center to the edge of the pan. Loosely cover the cake pans with wrap or a clean towel and let the rolls rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Remove the wrap from the cake pans, spray the rolls lightly with water, and place in the oven. Bake until the tops of the rolls are brown, 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees; using oven mitts or kitchen towels, invert the rolls from both cake pans onto a rimmed baking sheet. When the rolls are cool enough to handle, turn them right side up, pull them apart, and space them evenly on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until the rolls develop a deep golden brown crust and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the rolls to a wire rack and cook to room temperature, about 1 hour (or don’t… just enjoy them warm straight out of the oven. But be careful because they will be steamy on the inside!)
The rolls will keep for up to 2 days at room temperature in a ziplock bag or airtight container. To recrisp them, place the rolls in a 450-degree oven for 6-8 minutes.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen
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